Marc Selwyn Fine Art:
Kristen Morgin’s recent works at Marc Selwyn Fine Art break all the rules, and Los Angeles, the city she’s called home for over 30 years, is her muse and partner-in-crime. Abandoning traditional techniques, the artist creates delicate sculptures with painted, unfired clay–near sacrilege for most traditional ceramicists. Likewise, the works in the gallery are deliberately positioned in haphazard arrangements–a style reminiscent of a typical Angeleno yard sale.
Just above floor height sits an intricate sculptural installation in homage to the frenetic city of Los Angeles, A Little Portrait of an Extraordinary City (2017). A small, black and white portrait of the back of starlet Marilyn Monroe, the unofficial patron saint of Hollywood allure, stands above a pile of discarded objects–child’s flip-flop, old books, a smashed Marlboro cigarette pack, and an old tuna fish can, among others. This amalgamation of cinematic reference, urban legend, and childhood references appears so lifelike, it is easy to forget the entire assemblage is a complete fabrication made of hand-painted and carved clay.
Lover’s Triangle, a collage of three well-worn comic books, is a complex simulacrum of nostalgia. Covered with stickers and pen scribbles, the covers hang on the gallery wall in solemn reverence to their history, yet this narrative of object stands in place of the original. The artist has painstakingly painted each tear, crack, smudge and fingerprint on the work’s unfired clay surface.
In a reinvention of the objet trouvé, or found art used in traditions of California assemblage and collage artists, Morgin emphasizes creation and process over authenticity; instead of adapting existing objects, she instead undertakes the laborious process of re-creating these abandoned icons of memory by hand. Charlie Brown and Darth Vader Roll Dice in Prince’s Purple Universe (2017), is a humorous sculptural juxtaposition of the beloved Peanuts comic character facing off with the infamous Star Wars antagonist…as PEZ dispensers. Morgin’s works bring together images of Western history and pop culture memorabilia into invented narratives with wit and subjectivity in a style reminiscent of fellow Los Angeles collage artist Alexis Smith.
Los Angeles is a melting pot of imagery and objects from television and cinematic history, to consumerism and contemporary culture. While Kristen Morgin’s painted clay inventions question authenticity of story and nostalgia, their familiarity is somehow comforting. Perhaps, as the title of the exhibition assures, there really is no need to fear.
Kristen Morgin, “There’s No Need to Fear,” March 25 – July 1, 2017 at Marc Selwyn Fine Art, 9953 South Santa Monica Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212, www.marcselwynfineart.com.